The 8,791 hectare Top of the World Provincial Park is a region of great beauty. Most of the park is at an elevation above 1,800 metres (5,940 ft), high in the Kootenay Range of the Rocky Mountains, northeast of Kimberley.
The area encompassed by this park was once the traditional home of the Upper Kutenai Indians who shared their abode with visitors who came from as far as the Shuswap and Helena, Montana to obtain chert.
This grey, translucent, obsidian-like rock was used in the manufacture of tools and weapons.
Forest cover consists primarily of alpine fir and Englemann spruce in the subalpine area, with some lodgepole pine below 1,700 metres (5,610 ft) in the Lussier Creek drainage. Sitka alder is quite common in the lower reaches of the Summer Creek drainage and is found along the Lussier River and around Fish Lake. Near the timber line, alpine larch and white bark pine are interspersed with fir and spruce. Above 2,200 metres (7,260 ft), alpine larch dominates.
Alpine flowers carpet much of the plateau, with glacier lilies, mountain forget-me-nots and western anenome, the most abundant. At lower elevations, there are globe-flowers, Indian Paintbrush, broadleafed arnica, bunchberries and yellow columbines adding their splashes of colour.
The park is habitat of several species of big game, but it does not support any large populations. Occasional sightings are made of moose, elk, white-tailed deer, wolverine and porcupine in the Lussier River and Coyote Creek watersheds. Mule deer frequent the alpine meadows and marmots are found at higher elevations. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can be found in the vicinity of Mount Doolan and near Mount Morro, and mountain goats are seen on the ridges that form the western boundary of the park.
Around Fish Lake, bird life is quite abundant. Clark’s nutcrackers, Steller’s jays, gray jays, varied thrushes and pine grosbeaks, inhabit the lake are throughout the summer. Scaups, buffleheads and other waterfowl, including loons, often rest upon the lake and bald eagles and ospreys are often seen in the spring when the fish are spawning.
Fish Lake is the largest body of water in the park and is noted for its cutthroat trout and dolly varden fishery.
Weather conditions are typically Rocky Mountain. About half of the days in the summer are sunny with temperatures soaring to 30C (86F). Nights, quite often, will drop below the freezing mark. In July and August, precipitation, mostly in the form of rain, totals about 110 millimetres. Fish Lake is usually free of ice by mid-June; freeze-up occurs during late October. The access trail is passable on foot from early June to November. Snow and wet spots are present until late June. Alpine meadows and trails are not free of snow until mid-July.
How to get to the park: There are two access routes to the Fish Lake area of the park. Both routes utilize logging roads. Extreme caution must be exercised at all times while travelling these roads. Access routes are normally passable from late May until mid-November.
Via Whiteswan Lake: Turn east off of Highway 93/95, 4.5 kilometres south of Canal Flats. At kilometre 21.3 take the fork to the right (Lussier River Junction). At kilometre 29.6, turn right and cross Coyote Creek. Continue straight at kilometre 30.7, staying on the main road till reaching kilometre 52. The trail begins at this point.
From the south via Ram Creek – Very rough road. Not recommended for low clearance vehicles. Turn onto Premier Lake Road 400 metres (1,320 ft) (north of the Skookumchuck Gas Station on Highway 93/95). Follow for 8 kilometres (5 mi) and turn left onto gravel road. At kilometre 9.6 (mile 5.9), take right fork and cross Sheep Creek, (Lussier River), and continue through cattleguard. On the left, at kilometre 21.6 (mile 13.4), is the Ram Creek Hot Springs Ecological Reserve. At kilometre 27.7 (mile 17.2) turn right. Stay on this road to kilometre 52 (mile 32). Trail begins at this point.
Parking area to Fish Lake: Length 6 kilometres (4 mi), suggested time 1 1/2 – 2 hours, elevation change 212 metres (699 ft). A very easy hiking trail, especially suited for families. Good walking surface with occasional wet spots; log bridges may be slippery. Trail passes through cool, dense forest, along riverside, past slides to Sayles meadow. By crossing the creek at this point, one can return to the parking lot via the horse trail.
All along the trail, there are flowers blooming at different times in summer and a variety of fungi and mushrooms. Another feature of interest found along the trail is Crazy River and Crazy Creek which bubble out of the ground. The result from the subterranean drainage of a portion of the karst plateau which comprises most of this park.
Fish Lake to Coyote Creek Campsite and the Sugarloaf: Length 7 kilometres (4 mi), suggested time 1 1/2 – 3 hours, elevation change 368 metres (1,214 ft). A fairly strenuous trail. Starts approximately 100 m north of Fish Lake and is signed. Trail branches left to Sugarloaf at kilometre 5.6 (mile 3). Main trail continues to Coyote Creek campsite.
Lakeshore Trail: Length 2 kilometres (1 mi), suggested time 1/2 – 1 hoyr. A pleasant stroll around Fish Lake, offering many different views of the lake and surrounding peaks.
Fish Lake to Summer Pass: Length 4 kilometres (2 mi), suggested time 2-4 hours, elevation change 430 metres (1,419 ft). Trail begins at north end of Fish Lake off Lakeshore Trail and continues through flowered alpine meadows to Summer Pass.
Fish Lake to Wildhorse Ridge: Length 3.2 kilometres (2 mi), suggested time 2-4 hours, elevation change 640 metres (2,112 ft). Trail starts at the bottom of the slide to the west of Fish Lake.
On north side of creek, the trail switchbacks steeply for about 20 minutes, then levels out to follow creek. From the creek, the trail encounters a small ravine and rock slide. Past the ravine, the trail switchbacks up the south facing slope. Ridge offers fine view of Mount Doolan and Dolomite Lake. Uphill all the way but the scenery and alpine flowers make it worthwhile.
Fish Lake to Sparkle Lake: Length 2.8 kilometres (1.7 mi), suggested time 1-2 hours, elevation change 350 metres (1,155 ft). Trail follows the first section of Wildhorse Ridge Trail. At the top of the first steep pitch, it branches and crosses the creek. Follow the trail through the trees to a rock slide. Traverse the western edge and slowly gain elevation until the top southern edge is reached. Proceed through a small band of trees to a large slide path. The trail stops here. Sparkle Lake is directly ahead at this point. Please walk on the rocks to prevent damage to moss and meadows. From the lake, two ridges give spectacular viewpoints. Overnight camping is not permitted at Sparkle Lake.
Fish Lake to Alpine Viewpoint: Length 3.2 kilometres (2 mi), suggested time 2-3 hours, elevation change 600 metres (1,980 ft). Trail starts approximately 100 metres (330 ft) north of Fish Lake and ends at a large slide path. Pick your way through scree to ridge. Caution must be exercised while ascending and descending scree to prevent dislodged rocks from striking people below. It is best to travel abreast of or directly behind one another. Panoramic views from the ridge of Fish Lake, Lussier Valley, the alpine meadows and Mount Morro. Access to the meadows is easy. No camping at viewpoint.
Coyote Creek Campsite to Sugarloaf: Suggested time 1/2 hour, elevation change 300 metres (990 ft). Trail is marked near the campsite. Panoramic view from the summit.
Routes: At the ends of most trails, there are routes that offer the opportunity to explore further. Although routes are often indistinct, travelling is usually not difficult. Experience in route finding is recommended.
Camping: Permitted in four locations in the park: Junction of Nicol Creek and Lussier River, Sayles Meadows, Fish Lake and the campsite on Coyote Creek. At Fish Lake, there is a cabin accommodating 20-25 people, available for overnight use with firewood and stove supplied. A fee is charged for overnight use. Numerous designated campsites are located around the lake.
Horses: Permitted in the park on the Fish Lake, Coyote Creek and Galbraith Creek trails only. Overnight grazing is prohibited except in the vicinity of Nicol Creek campsite, Coyotee Creek campsite and Sayles Meadows. Use of pellets and other feed concentrates is encouraged. Grazing should be limited to one night per party in each location. At Fish Lake, horses must be kept away from the cabin. A hitching rail is located 100 metres (330 ft) from the lake.
Fishing: Traditionally, most people who come to Top of the World Provincial Park have done so to angle for cutthroat and Dolly Varden is Fish Lake. Cutthroat average 20 cm and Dolly Varden about 30 cm.
Winter: The park is very beautiful in the winter. Contact should be made with logging firms to determine if road is open. Use extreme caution at all times. Traverse around the toe of the large avalanche path at Sayles Meadows. Do not ice fish or travel near slide paths that empty onto the lake. A cross-country ski trail to Fish Lake starts just after the Nicole Creek crossing and follows the Lussier River to Fish Lake. The trail is classed intermediate.
A non-motorized park.